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The Big Preview: Georgia Tech

Coming off what can only be described as a bad loss, the Hoos look to right the ship tomorrow against the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. The road has not been kind to the Hoos thus far this year, and they need to prove that it has been a fluke. The Jackets are a solid team, coming off back-to-back road conference losses in which they were competitive against ranked teams.

The Hoos must improve defensively against the offense-minded Yellow Jackets.
The Hoos must improve defensively against the offense-minded Yellow Jackets.
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoos must bounce back from Monday's loss to the Hokies, and they get a chance to do it tomorrow against Georgia Tech. The Hoos have now played 3 true road games, and they've lost 2. The Jackets aren't a particularly good team, though they are probably better than the Hokies. They are 0-2 in the ACC, losing a pair of road games to UNC and Pitt. They played well in both of those contests, losing by just 8 to UNC and 5 to Pitt. They also lost at home to ETSU back in November.

The Yellow Jackets are a veteran team. They start 4 seniors and a junior. However, those 5 players have completed a total of 5 years at Georgia Tech. PG Josh Heath is a transfer from South Florida, SG Adam Smith is a transfer from Virginia Tech (also from UNC Wilmington), PF Nick Jacobs is a transfer from Alabama and C Charles Mitchell is a transfer from Maryland. Only SF Marcus Georges-Hunt began his career with the Jackets. Heath and Mitchell played for the Jackets last year.

Head coach Brian Gregory also has James White, a transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock. That is a lot of transfers and helps make up for their miss in recruiting. Gregory signed only 1 recruit for this year, Sylvester Ogbonda, a raw 6'10" big man from Nigeria. He is redshirting.

Other than Georges-Hunt, only 1 non-transfer is averaging even 15 minutes per game, and that is backup PG Travis Jorgenson, who averages 3 points and 3 assists per game.

Georges-Hunt is Georgia Tech's best player. He's led the team in scoring 2 of the past 3 years (and leads the team this year). He's also a good rebounder, decent passer, and solid defender. He's a bit undersized, though he doesn't look it or play it. He plays strong and excels on the interior, getting into the lane to score. He's a decent shooter, but not a good one.

Of all the transfers, Adam Smith is the biggest "get" for Gregory thus far, as his shooting ability helps open up the interior for Georges-Hunt. Marcus is finishing better, drawing more fouls and playing a much more efficient brand of basketball this year. Some of that is just due to experience and growth, some is due to level of competition (though he did put up 25 points up against UNC and 14/10 against Pitt), but teams are paying more attention to the perimeter where Smith is lurking and that is allowing Georges-Hunt to excel. Georges-Hunt is also shooting a career high 35% from 3. And meanwhile, Smith is making 47% of his 3s.

Despite starting and playing about 22 minutes per game, Heath averages just 4 points per game. He actually averages more assists than points, which is hard to do. He's a deft passer, but he is simply an unwilling shooter. He isn't very good at finishing inside, which means he's always looking to pass. This has hurt his TO rate. He's finishing better this year, but is still wary. And he's only a career 22% shooter from outside.

The duo up front are both just 6'8" but both are beefy. Mitchell and Jacobs each weighs around 260 pounds. Mitchell has had trouble staying in shape, as well as staying on the court (due to fouls), but he's proven to be one of the better rebounders in the nation and he's finally scoring to go along with that. He averaged 9 and 7 last year, and he's bumped that up to 13 and 11. Of course, those numbers will probably drop in ACC play, but he did have 14 and 6 against UNC before fouling out. He also had 16 and 11 against Villanova.

Jacobs isn't as good pf a rebounder as Mitchell, but he's the best post scorer that Georgia Tech has. He's also the best interior help defender, though Mitchell is probably the better one-on-one defender inside. Mitchell had 20 and 17 (9 offensive rebounds) on Wednesday against Pitt.

This is a game where the Hoos can go with their best lineups. GT isn't likely to go small, because they don't have the depth on the perimeter. So the Hoos can go with both Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill on the inside without really losing anything on the defensive end. And if Mitchell is giving them problems, a guy like Jack Salt can come in to throw his weight around and hopefully keep Mitchell off the offensive glass.

On the wings, the Hoos will have the advantage. There aren't a ton of guys in the country who can stay in front of Georges-Hunt and also bang with him inside, but Brogdon is one of them. And hopefully, Brogdon can also make Georges-Hunt work on the other end. Adam Smith is actually the scarier player for the Hoos. He played well against the Hoos last year, and he's coming off a 30 point performance against Pitt in which he made 8 three-pointers.

If the Hoos are going to have the type of season that fans are expecting, this game is almost a must-win. Coming off a loss to the lowly Hokies, the Hoos need to get back on track. And they must also show that the road will not be a big stumbling block all season. And finally, GT is a big, physical team that generally the Hoos have handled. But this year, they've struggled against those types of teams, such as Cal and GW.